SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHOC-ORANGE MINI CAKES & A BONUS RECIPE

13082596_1327954120553739_3054889855668038106_n(Reprinted with permission from Adrienne Hedger)

And here we are landing firmly in the month of May. This year is flying by, if you ask me… First Monday of the month means fun. It is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club, that event in which bloggers are paired in secret and cook a recipe from their assigned site.  This month I got a food blog that was new to me: Chit Chat Chomp, hosted by Leigh, who blogs from Melbourne, a place I would love to visit one day. Leigh’s site is a thing of beauty, very stylish, elegant, amazing photos, and great prose. Basically, a must-read food blog!  She summarizes her approach to cooking in a delightful way:

Recipes inspired by my travels through France, adapted for everyday simplicity and filled to the brim with nutrition.  Mostly gluten and refined sugar-free, my recipes lean towards food that inspires, heals and nourishes, but above all else, it’s fresh, organic and simple.

Recipes inspired by my travels through France… She’s got my full attention!  In fact, she describes herself as a lover of all things French. You can imagine the smile I opened when I read that line, right?  I spent quite a bit of time stalking her blog, but jumped on a recipe right away for a reason I will classify as “The Swedish Effect.” Small parenthesis is needed.  We have an undergraduate student from Sweden in our lab called Olivia. She happened to mention that April 15th was her “name day” back home.  I was puzzled, but then learned that in Sweden each day of the year is associated with a particular name, as you can see in this site. April 15th is the name day for Olivia (girls) and Oliver (boys). Olivia said that her Grandma always gave her a nice card on that day to celebrate the occasion. So, I thought it would be cool to bake something starting with the letter O and bring to the lab on that day. Orange-Chocolate mini-cakes seemed perfect! Obviously, I jumped on the recipe with no hesitation whatsoever. But, my decision had a small problem associated with it, which led me to make a second recipe for today’s reveal. Read on…

Choc Orange Mini Cakes
ORANGE-CHOC MINI CAKES
(from Chit Chat Chomp)

Makes 6 mini-cakes

1 orange
1 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp rice malt syrup or raw honey
handful of raw cacao nibs
handful of sunflower seeds (I omitted for lack of sunflower seeds)

Heat oven to 320 F and line a mini cupcake pan with 8 cupcake papers

Place the orange in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Allow to cool.

Chop the cooked orange into chunks and place in a blender and blitz until smooth. Add all other ingredients (except cacao nibs and sunflower seeds) to the blender and pulse until combined.

Divide the batter between your cupcake papers, filling close to the top as they will not rise by much, and top with the cacao nibs and sunflower seeds. Pop into the oven for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

ENJOY!

to print the mini-cake recipe, click here

orangecakecomp
Comments: As Leigh mentioned, the only tricky part of this recipe is to boil the orange. Tricky in the sense that you need to dedicate one hour for that step. Essentially hands-free, though. The smell in the kitchen as the orange simmers…. wonderful!  Once the orange is ready and cooled down, the batter will be ready in minutes. Now, let’s talk about the “small problem.”  The recipe made six cupcakes, enough for each of our lab members to enjoy, but Phil and I could not have any. In short, I made a recipe for The Secret Recipe Club, but never got to taste it. I had only one way to restore my dignity as a blogger: choose a second recipe from Chit Chat Chomp, and make it too… and that’s what I did, so today you get two recipes instead of one. How’s that for problem solving?

Without further ado… my bonus recipe from Leigh’s great blog:

Veggie Bread

VEGGIE BREAD
(from Chit Chat Chomp)

1 + 1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cups arrowroot flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs
1 + 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 large zucchini, grated
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pepitas.

Heat the oven to 325 F and line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the almond meal, arrowroot, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs lightly with the apple cider vinegar. Add zucchini, carrot and cheese and mix well.

Add the egg mix to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine. Pour the dough into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with pepitas.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top starts turning golden and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool for five minutes before cutting into slices.

ENJOY!

to print the Veggie Bread recipe, click here

veggiecomposite

Comments: We loved this bread! It is obviously gluten-free, no regular flour, but the texture reminded me of quick breads, except that this had considerable more moisture. Not too dense like some gluten-free breads turn out.  Leigh said it freezes well, but we did not get to test that, in three days it was gone. I enjoyed a slice at lunchtime, and was surprised that Phil did that too, he prefers his bread to be loaded with gluten. This one had so much flavor that the lack of wheat flour was not a big deal.  Once it sits in the fridge for a while, the best way to bring it back to life is toasting it…  paired with juicy tomatoes, it was out of this world delicious!

toasted

I wanted to try to make croutons out of it.  Not sautéed because I am afraid they would crumble, it is a very delicate bread. But maybe spraying the croutons with coconut or olive oil then toasting them in the oven. I bet they would turn out amazing on a kicked-up version of Caesar salad, or over a massaged kale concoction. Definitely a bread to play with.

I must say it was not easy to decide on which recipe to make as the bonus.  I really wanted to make her Savoury Muffins, not only because the recipe enticed me, but for the write-up about it. You gotta go and read it… it has to do with France…   And, if the weather was a little more appropriate, I would love a bowl of her luscious Carrot Soup… Another heavy contender was the Zucchini Noodle with Kale Pesto, which is pretty much my favorite type of meal these days.

Leigh, I loved getting your blog as my assignment this month, and feel sorry I could not taste those cute mini-cupcakes… Thinking back, I should have made a double batch, but I only thought about it after they were all baked and I had no time to boil another orange and start over. It was getting close to bedtime then… oh, well. Such is life!

Please make sure to click on the blue frog sitting patiently at the end of this post, so you can marvel at the posts that my virtual friends from Group A made for their assignments.

Adrienne, thank you again for allowing me to share your cartoon on the blog!
I love your work!

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, May 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: P90X3, a Review of Tony Horton’s Latest Fitness Program 

THREE YEARS AGO: Pasta and Mussels in Saffron Broth

FOUR YEARS AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

SIX YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: OVERNIGHT COFFEE CAKE

Here I am to share with you my second participation in Group A of The Secret Recipe Club, the monthly event in which two food bloggers are paired in secret, and pick a recipe to cook and blog about exactly at the same time of Reveal Day. I’d been a member for over 4 years with Group D, and loved every minute of it! This month’s assignment was the blog Bcmom’s Kitchen, hosted by  Anna. I love the quote she’s got on the front page to describe her kitchen:

Where towels are for drying, and the white spoons don’t go in the tomato sauce!

Clearly, we have a lot in common, as I can be very protective of my kitchen towels. Just ask Phil… Come to think of it, I don’t own any white spoons, but if I did, they would never be allowed near a tomato, a beet, or a raspberry.  Apart from keeping her kitchen pristine, Anna is a busy bee, and focuses on recipes that are easy to bring to the table and also delicious. Pretty much the way I cook most of the time.  I bookmarked A LOT of recipes from her site, including her Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese,  her Apple Bread with Pecans and Dried Cranberries (wow!), her Rum Raisin Ice Cream (I absolutely must make this when the weather is right), her Snickerdoodle Bars (because anything Snickerdoodle makes my heart miss a beat), and her Crockpot Beef Carnitas Tacos (if you did not guess yet, the Bewitching Kitchen recently welcomed a slow cooker).  But, in the end I could not stop thinking about her Overnight Coffee Cake, perfect for making departmental colleagues happy!

And now that the Reveal Day took place, can you believe that Anna got my blog? So we pretty much exchanged sites this month!  She picked a favorite recipe of mine, and composed a wonderful write up!  Check it out here… Thank YOU, Anna!

baked
OVERNIGHT COFFEE CAKE
(from Bcmom’s Kitchen)

for cake:
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

for topping:
2 bananas, sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Stir in buttermilk. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir into butter/sugar mixture and mix well.

Spread batter into greased 13×9″ pan. Mix all ingredients for topping and reserve. Spread the slices of bananas over the batter, and sprinkle the topping all over the surface. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositecoffeecake

 

Here is what Anna had to say about the cake:

 I’ve been making this coffee cake for a long time.  It’s so convenient – mix it up the day or night before, refrigerate it overnight, and bake it in the morning.  Warm fresh-baked coffee cake for breakfast or brunch.  What could be better than that?

Well, I sign below. And of course, her improvement to the basic by adding bananas on top was a strike of genius… As usual, this type of goodie is not easy to take a picture, but trust me, the taste is out of this world delicious!  The bananas pretty much melt on top, forming a gooey entity with the sugar, but then the nuts add that pleasant crunch and next thing you know, the universe is smiling at you…  What better way to start the day?

pieces

 

This cake is a perfect complement to a cup of coffee or tea, either one will do. Our colleagues seemed to love it, as only crumbs were left over the platter when I went back to the mail room around 10am that morning. It always gives me a wonderful feeling when that happens… a sort of “sweet mission accomplished.”

Anna, I loved to “meet” you through SRC this month, and hope you had a lot of fun stalking your assigned blog too. For those interested in what my fellow secreters cooked up, please click on the blue frog at the end of this post, and have a blast!

closeup

The corner piece with the extra crunch on the sides… irresistible!

ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchisagna: A Twist on a Classic

TWO YEARS AGO: Night and Day

THREE YEARS AGO: Farro Salad with Roasted Leeks

FOUR YEARS AGO: Watercress Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree’

SIX YEARS AGO: Croissants: Paris at home on a special day

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: SUNDAY GRAVY WITH BRACIOLE

New Year, New Life, New Secret Recipe Group!

Those who follow my blog might be used to my Secret Recipe Club participation on the fourth Monday of each month. However, I’ve been a member for so long that it seemed like a good idea to move to a new group in the club. So, I switched to Group A, and my SRC posts will fall instead on the first Monday of each month.  Of course it is a bit sad to leave the comfort of my old group, where so many ties were made, but I know they won’t be broken. Actually, if I may share something special, take a look at this post written by our wonderful moderator, Sarah Ellis. What a nice surprise it was! She does that type of Gold Member post on a regular basis, but it was my first time in her spotlight… Felt great!

Obviously, I was anxious to get my first assignment of the year, and was overjoyed when I got the email. Why? Because I was assigned to Sid’s site, a blog I’ve been following for a long time, so it felt like the warmest possible welcome for me…  Sid has been blogging since June 2011 (see her first post here), although in fact she used to have another blog earlier, dedicated to pictures and crafts. Then she decided to start Sid Sea’s Palm Cooking to concentrate on food blogging. Well, I am thrilled she did it!  One of the things  I love the most about her site is her energy, upbeat mood, and wit. Every post gives me a big smile. Plus, she cooks amazing stuff all the time. Two features are quite interesting in her site, the “Tapas” and “Boat Club” posts, organized together in a page you can access here.  Those are monthly events she participates (in real life), and then shares with her readers. If you need inspiration for a tapas or cocktail type party, look no further! I had quite a few recipes selected as possibilities for this assignment like her Yorkshire puddings, her Sweet Potato Samosas, her Sweet and Sour Chicken Meatballs, her elegant Leek Pancakes, but ended up settling for the Sunday Gravy with Braciole because it seemed perfect for the weather: luscious, filling, very complex flavors.  Of course, brown food is not very camera-friendly, but it is fantastic for the taste buds. So there!

Braciole with Sunday Gravy

 

SUNDAY GRAVY WITH BRACIOLE
(slightly modified from Sid’s Sea Palm Cooking)

for Sunday Gravy:
1/4 cup olive oil
6 mild Italian Sausages, cut in thirds
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (5 oz) can of tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 (28 oz.) cans Italian Plum Tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
2-3 Tbsp. of equal parts of dried basil, thyme, sage and oregano
1/4 cup rye whiskey (optional, I used regular whiskey)
 .
for Braciole: 
4 slices of round steak 1/2 inch thick pounded to about 1/4 inch thick
4 slices of bacon
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 clove finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste.
olive oil for browning
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Make the gravy: Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 6 quart pot, preferably non-stick, brown sausages on all sides.  Add onion and garlic and saute until just soft.    Don’t burn the garlic.   Stir in tomato paste and cook gently 15 minutes being careful not to burn or have mixture stick to pot. Deglaze pot with the red wine and reduce out alcohol.Process in blender the tomatoes with their liquid until slightly chunky and puree like.   Add tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer.    Stir in seasonings and herbs.  Adjust to taste, especially the salt.  Add whiskey if using. This will cut acidity and make a slightly sweeter sauce.  Simmer partially covered for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Sauce can be made in advance.
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Make the braciole: Mix the parsley, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Lay 1 strip bacon on each braciole, sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over braciole, roll up and tie securely with string.   Heat oil in skillet and brown meat evenly on all sides.   Transfer to the simmering ‘gravy’ and cook at least 2 hours.
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My modification: I simmered the gravy for 2.5 hours.  Used 1/3 of it to cook the braciole under pressure for 35 minutes, after browning them. Froze the leftover gravy for later, in two portions.  Sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese over the braciole when serving.
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ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here

braciolecomposite

Comments: I’ve always wanted to make Sunday Gravy. The name promises something delicious, don’t you think? Something that cooks slowly for hours… But, I confess I messed it up really bad. Sorry, Sid, I did. I made it on a Saturday. I know, I know, what was I thinking?

Apart from that, I followed the recipe to a T, and loved the outcome! The change in the sauce as it simmered down for 3 hours was a pleasure to witness. I made the gravy on Saturday, saved it in the fridge, removed the congealed fat from the surface on Sunday, and made the braciole that afternoon. Most important step? Browning them well before simmering with the sauce. A process that should not be rushed, allow the browning to take place and it will reward you with amazing flavor later. I promise.

braciole3

 

Another small change I made was to cook the braciole in the pressure cooker. I had the gravy ready, so after browning the little rolls of meat I transferred them to the pressure cooker, added the sauce and cooked under pressure for 35 minutes. After cooking I tasted the sauce and adjusted seasoning just lightly with a bit of salt and pepper.

There you have it, a fantastic meal, meat falling apart tender, a sauce that tastes almost sweet from the long simmering. Comfort food, all the way…

Braciole with Gravy Served

 

I enjoyed it with some spaghetti squash, but of course you can go the more authentic route of polenta, mashed potatoes, pasta, risotto…  I prefer to balance a heavy dish with a lighter side. Do what feels right for you.

closeup

Dinner is served! You won’t even need a knife….

 

Sid, I had a great time stalking your site, it was a thrill to get your blog as my first assignment with the new group… I hope you had as much fun as I did this month!
To see what my new friends cooked up this month, click on the blue frog at the end of this post.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

THREE YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

FOUR YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: RUSTIC CIABATTA AND MINI-MEATLOAVES

FOUR YEARS AS A MEMBER OF THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB!

Rustic Ciabbata with Dates.
It’s that fun time of the month again, Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, a virtual event in which food bloggers are assigned a site in secret, then blog about a chosen recipe at midnight of Reveal Day. In two words: incredibly awesome. But what is more awesome than that is the blog I got this month. I almost passed out from excitement, thrill, and joy. Why? Because my assigned site is one of my favorites in the whole food blogosphere: Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Just to make an analogy, if blogging was like acting, my Secret Acting Club assignment would be Meryl Streep. Yeap, that awesome!   I’ve been reading Karen’s blog forever, I consider her as one of my personal gurus in bread baking. She is the type of baker who is not afraid to push the limits, moving easily from tangzhong type breads to bialys, baguettes, all sorts of rustic sourdoughs, Pullman type loaves, really amazing what she can do with flour, water, salt, and yeast, often wild (the yeast, not her).  At my last count, she’s got 247 bread recipes in her blog. Two hundred and forty-seven. You can collect your chin off the floor now. I bookmarked so many recipes that it was not even funny. Just to give you a small sampling of the breads that tempted me: Cheese and Herb Happy Bread,  Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Rolls , Corn and Jalapeno Rolls (oh, my!), English Muffin Bread (I really need to make this one!), Tangzhong Whole Wheat Bread (very interesting method), Kesra Moroccan Flatbread, Hawaiian Style Sweet Rolls (reminds me of my childhood in Brazil), Stuffed Pretzel Bites (O.M.G.!). Of course, that doesn’t include the breads from her site I already made like the delicious Ka’Kat. or Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough. But of course there’s a lot more than bread in her blog. For instance, if you like stir-fries, she has a section on Wok Wednesdays that is a must-follow, holding so far 57 entries.  The bottom line is, I had no choice but to make two recipes from her site. A rustic ciabatta, because it would be almost rude not to choose a bread from Karen’s blog, and some mini-meatloaves because they looked so incredibly cute, I could not stop dreaming about them…

Ciabatta Dates Flax2

RUSTIC CIABATTA WITH DATES AND FLAX SEEDS
(from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

for the soaker:
48 grams flaxseeds
72 grams (1/3 C) water
 .
for the poolish:
125 grams unbleached bread flour
125 grams (1/2 C) water
pinch of instant yeast
 .
for the final dough:
278 grams (~1 1/4 C) water
All of the poolish
300 grams unbleached bread flour
50 grams coarsely ground whole wheat flour
25 grams coarsely ground rye flour
10 grams (1 3/4 tsp) salt
2 grams (~ 3/4 tsp) instant yeast
All of the soaker
84 grams dried dates, seeded previously, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
 .
The night before baking day, mix the soaker and poolish in separate bowls. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap. Leave enough room in the poolish bowl for it to double in size.
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The next day (about 12 to 16 hours later), measure the 278 grams of water into a large bowl or dough rising bucket. Add the poolish, and mix it into the water with your hand to break it apart. Add the flours, salt, and yeast, and mix the dough with your hands, stirring, pinching, and folding the dough to absorb all of the flour and dissolve the salt and yeast. When you pinch the dough, you should not feel any grit.
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Once all of the ingredients are combined, mix in the soaker with your hand until evenly distributed. Add the dates, and mix to distribute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot.
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After 45 minutes, stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four “sides.” Repeat the 45 minute rest followed by a stretch-and-fold two more times (a total of 3 stretch-and-folds).  Let the dough rest for a final 45 minutes, covered, in a warm spot.
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Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and gently nudge it into a rectangle. Be careful not to deflate the dough. Using an oiled bench knife, cut the dough into three equal pieces. Pick each piece up with floured hands and place it on a floured couche or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with the rest of the couche or oiled plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, while you heat the oven to 475 degrees F, and set it up with a steam pan on the lowest rack and a baking stone directly above it. Fill a spray bottle with water.
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When the oven is at the correct temperature, transfer the loaves to the baking stone (see notes above, or place the baking sheet with the loaves on it in the oven). Place a cup of boiling water in the steam pan (cover your oven’s window), and spray the oven walls with water. Quickly close the door.  Bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 200 to 210 degrees F. Cool on a wire rack.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here
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ciabattacollage
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Comments:
I made this bread in one of those perfect Saturdays!  Why? Because I woke up before 5am feeling super energetic, could hardly wait to get downstairs and play with my ingredients already measured since the evening before.  During the first 45 minutes rise I did a nice P90X yoga while the house was still dark, peaceful and silent…  As in a perfectly timed symphony, just as I finished my exercises, Phil woke up and made me a fantastic cappuccino…. the dogs immediately joined us in welcoming the weekend…Told ya: perfect Saturday!
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Back to Karen’s ciabatta: the dough was a pleasure to work with, gaining strength at each folding cycle. In the composite photo above, the dough is shown after the last folding cycle, all plump and shiny.  I used whole flaxseeds, Karen used ground, but I followed the exact same method, including the volume of water to make the soaker. You can use whatever type of flaxseeds you have in your pantry.  Most important thing is not to deflate the dough too much as you coach it into the ciabatta shape. The less you mess with it, the better.  You will be rewarded with a ton of holes, a very airy bread, comme il faut.
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Crumb shot
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We both loved this bread! The dates offer a burst of sweetness that plays well with the almost sour nature of the dough given by the extended fermentation of the poolish.  Cut a slice, toast it very very lightly, top it with some Gorgonzola and you will have to tie yourself to your seat not to fly away in a magic carpet….   Awesome combo.

 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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And now, for the bonus recipe from Karen’s site…  Adorable meatloaves in individual servings.  Her recipe used beef, I changed it slightly by using ground turkey.

miniloaves served11
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INDIVIDUAL MEATLOAVES WITH CHILI SAUCE

(adapted from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)
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1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1/3 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup boiling water
1 pound 85% lean ground turkey
1/4 pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup jarred chili sauce, such as Heinz
 .
Spray a half sheet pan with spray oil and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse the shallot, celery, parsley, and bacon several times until well chopped.  In a large bowl, combine the oats and boiling water and stir. Add the mixture from the food processor and combine.
 .
Break up the ground turkey and pork and add them to the large bowl. Whisk the eggs and add them to the meat and oat mixture. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the chili sauce to the meat mixture. Mix with your hands until everything is well mixed.
 .
Divide the mixture into four equal parts and shape each into a small loaf, placing them onto the baking sheet. Take 1/2 cup of the chili sauce, and brush it over the four loaves.  Bake the loaves on the center rack for about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the loaves with the rest (1/4 cup) of the chili sauce. Turn on the broiler, and place the pan back on the center rack. Broil for about 5 minutes, until the chili sauce just begins to brown.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here

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PicMonkey Collage11

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These meatloaves were sooooo good!  The chili sauce is a must, do not skip it. They turned out moist, flavorful, spicy but not overly so. I served them with sweet potato noodles that were recently published in my guest post over at Foodbod. The recipe made 3 loaves and we enjoyed them for dinner, then I had leftovers for my lunch a couple of days in a row. Heaven. Just heaven. If I may make a public confession, I had some slices straight from the fridge. Cold. Yeah, standing up, with a Jack Russell staring at me wondering how long it would take for Newton’s Law of Gravity to work its magic in his favor. HA!  Not a chance!

Karen, I hope you enjoyed your assignment this month. It goes without saying that I spent the past 4  weeks anticipating this Reveal Day, anxious to share the recipes I made from your blog. For my readers, if you don’t yet know Karen’s Kitchen Stories, stop right now and go pay her a visit.  Not only she is a great baker and cook, but a very cool person with great sense of humor and wit.  Plus, she is the Grandma of two beautiful boys, and lucky to live very close to them, so it’s easier for her to spoil them rotten.  I intend to follow her footsteps and do my best to spoil Greenlee at every chance I get…   Maybe one day I can teach Greenlee to bake a chocolate cake for her Dad too. Oops, did I just use “teach” and “bake a cake” in the same sentence?  Excuse me while I go grab a thermometer. I might be running a very high fever… (sigh)

ONE YEAR AGO: Green Rice

TWO YEARS AGO: Potato-Crusted Italian Mini-Quiches

THREE YEARS AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

FIVE YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

SIX YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Pieces
The last Monday of October is here in all its pre-Halloween glory, and chilly not-so-glorious mornings!  It is Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, and here I am to disclose the blog I was assigned to cook from: The Colbert Clan, hosted by Kate. Now, I must confess that this month I almost decided to skip participating because we traveled so much.  I kept the blog going normally, but we barely stayed home. First a trip to Santa Monica, CA, back home for 24 hours, then we caught a plane to São Paulo, Brazil.  I knew that my only chance of sticking with the Secret Recipe Club would be to jump on the assignment right away.  So, I took a slightly different approach to it, and went straight with a search for a cake. Cake? Me, the anti-cake-baker? Yes, you got that right. I wanted to take a chocolate cake to the department and that’s what I searched for.  The choice was easy, painless, and very sweet: a Chocolate Zucchini Cake, adorned with a luscious buttercream frosting which yours truly made with only minor boo-boos. It was an almost painless baking experience, which is saying a lot. But let me tell yo a little bit about Kate. She is a young, stay-at-home Mom of three kids, and her blog reflects life-style of someone who needs to get good food at the table for a family of five.  I am sure it’s not easy, kids can be picky, and juggling everyone’s desires is like a full-time job!  Kudos for her…   I could not resist browsing a little bit through The Colbert Clan, and was tempted to make her Mini-snickers Cheesecakes, which are simply adorable with a drizzle of caramel on top. I am sure my colleagues at the department would be absolutely thrilled…  And, since we are on the subject of cuteness, how about these Macaroon Kisses? Definitely something to consider as a baking project…  But, chocolate cake was on my mind, and without further ado, let me share the recipe with you.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING
(from The Colbert Clan)

for the cake:
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 and spray your 9×13 pan.

In one bowl mix together oil, sugar, vanilla, egg and milk until combines. Add grated zucchini.In a second bowl mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix.

Pour into your 9×13 pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: Beat the butter until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and milk. Mix in cocoa and powdered sugar, whip until the mixture is smooth and creamy. I did not have to use all the powdered sugar mixture.

Cut in squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I’ve always wanted to make a chocolate cake with zucchini in it, because it’s so intriguing! Of course, I am very fond of a particular type of carrot cake from my childhood, and zucchini is not too far from carrots as far as food is concerned. Plus, chocolate can make many things taste delicious and decadent, even the humble zucchini.  This cake is simple to prepare, the hardest part was shredding the squash.  Now, a piece of advice for novice bakers: if you are a neat freak like I am, and decide to rinse the sieve after making the cake batter, make sure it is 100% dry before you go sifting the cocoa powder for the frosting.  If there is water in it, you’ll have a big mess on your hands, especially if you are puzzled about the cocoa not going through and decide to “help” it with your fingers.  Enough said.

The cake was a big success with our colleagues, and of course Phil had to remind me of speeches he gave me in the past, like  “The Importance of Frosting on Any Cake,” and  “Why Cakes are Not Real Cakes If Not Smothered in Frosting.”  He is thrilled that I seem to be getting his point, after so many years of food blogging.  Our marriage only gets better and better.

Kate, I hope you had a great time cooking from your assigned blog!
I invite my readers to browse through the collection of goodies made by my fellow virtual friends from The Secret Recipe Club with a click on the blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey-Mustard Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

THREE YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

FIVE YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner

SIX YEARS AGO: Panettone

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: AMAZING APRICOT BARS

Here we are. Last Monday of September, which means Summer is gone. Over. Finito. Acabado. I could sit here and whine for hours, filling your screen with paragraph after paragraph describing in detail my despair, frustration, and overall gloom. Telling you how my interactions with human beings are affected as the average daily temperature goes down. You don’t want to be around me in January, even with all that New Year upbeat aura. But, enough with the negativity.

The last Monday of the month brings many reasons to be joyful, as it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club. This month I got a fantastic blog to stalk and cook from: A Palatable Pastime, hosted by Sue, who lives in Ohio with her husband and two lovely cats. She develops her own recipes – often with a Southern US flair – and not only has won several contests, but her productions have been featured in many top-notch sites like LDS Living, Mrs. Field’s and the Christian Science Monitor’s food section. I was thrilled to stalk her site, although a bit overwhelmed by the number of possibilities bookmarked to pick, cook, and share with my readers today.

Twelve recipes made the final list, but to keep it manageable, I’ll just mention half of them: Sweet Potato Biscuits (I’ve always wanted to make them… was very close to choosing it for this assignment), Thai Salmon Curry….   Vegan Mushroom Pumpkin Chili (her description tells me it’s a winner of a recipe), Dutch-Baby Pancake (another recipe I’ve always wanted to try), Thai Larb Soft Rolls… and Sue’s Almost Famous Meatballs (great post!). There were so many tasty options to choose from, but in the end I made a batch of her Amazing Apricot Bars. No doubt 2015 is the year of the apricot in the Bewitching Kitchen…  These turned out spectacularly amazing!

Apricot Bars

AMAZING APRICOT BARS
(from A Palatable Pastime)

For shortbread crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8-1/2 ounces)

For topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, toasted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey

For finishing:
1/3 cup apricot jam
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a glass 8×8-inch square baking pan. Cream together the butter and sugar (thoroughly mix until sugar dissolves). Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour and mix into a dough. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, then chill in the refrigerator while you continue.

Mix the dry ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar and honey over low heat. Stir in the dry fruit topping mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes then remove from heat. Take out the baking pan, and spread the top of the dough with the simply fruit apricot spread. Top the spread with the cooked fruit mixture.

Sprinkle the topping with an extra 3 tablespoons of sweetened flaked coconut. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ApricotComposite

The bars were juicy, sweet, with a slight tang from the cranberries to balance flavors. The crust., which I find the trickiest component of this type of concoction was perfect: not too hard, not too crumbly.  As usual, I brought the whole batch to our department, and by 9:30 am, not a single crumb was left on the platter.  So, I advise that if you intend to share it friends, make sure to grab a square for yourself right away…  They are seriously addictive.

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Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed stalking your site, I love the way you go the extra mile to explain the technique behind your recipes, so that even a novice cook will be able to make the many tasty things you share on your blog.  I hope you also had fun with your assignment this month. My readers are invited to browse through this month’s collection by poking the cute frog at the end of this post.

Apricot Bars2
ONE YEAR AGO: Spiralizer Fun

TWO YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SIX YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TAILGATING PARTY!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will probably be a bit surprised to see another Secret Recipe Club feature just one week after the last one.  Here’s the reason: some months have five Mondays, but there are only four groups of blogs (A through D) in the club. So in some months a Monday would be empty of virtual fun, and that is sad.  The moderators then had this brilliant idea of coming up with a special theme for these extra Mondays in which all groups participate. Since football season is starting, the theme for today’s Reveal Day is “Tailgating“. Now, I must say I’m not too wild about tailgating, probably because I did not grow up in the US. But, nothing makes me miss a party, and I loved coming up with a recipe appropriate for the occasion. I was assigned the blog Dancing Veggies, hosted by Amanda, a member of Group A. One of the things I got a kick out of stalking her blog is the way she chooses pretty creative, unexpected names for her posts.  For instance, what do you think a post called “Heart Racing” would be about? A bowl of chili? a hot Indian curry?  Nah. It’s about Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies!  :-) How about a post called “Meet me at Midnight?” Caviar on toast and a shot of vodka?  A platter of oysters on the half shell?  No, not really. That one is about German Chocolate Brownies…  For this tailgating event, my contribution is a plate of cookies, and since Fall is knocking at the door (stiff upper lip ON), my cookies include the P word. Talk about someone who dances with the music… that’s me, baby, all the way! And speaking of dancing to the music, Amanda just explained to me the meaning behind her posts titles: they are all song titles, the “dancing” part of her blog, Dancing Veggies.  Too awesome for words!

Pumpkin Choc Chip Cookies2

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(slightly modified from Dancing Veggies)

makes about 30 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin
1 + 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup mini dark choc chips
1/4 to 1/2 cup white choc chips

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Cream the butter and sugar for 5 minutes, until slightly fluffy. Add in the egg, salt, and vanilla extract and beat for a few more minutes before adding in the mashed pumpkin.

In a small bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Slowly add to the wet ingredients and beat until just mixed. Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets in walnut sized portions. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a golden orange shade. Cool on a rack.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  My main modification of the recipe was to use a mixture of white and dark chocolate chips. I am very fond of white chocolate and had just a little bit left in a bag, so I decided to put them to good use.  I left the amounts pretty flexible in the recipe, because Phil loves a cookie that is loaded with chips, so see how much your dough can take and go for maximal pleasure.  I think dried cranberries would work great too, by the way. The texture of the cookies is on the chewy side due to the pumpkin puree, which by the way, I used canned.  As usual, no one will be able to taste the pumpkin, it just gives them a mysterious flavor.  The nutmeg and cinnamon of course complement it all beautifully.  A perfect Fall cookie (stiff upper lip threatening to fail).

have a cookie

You cannot have summer back, but you can always have a cookie!

Amanda, I had a lot of fun browsing your collection of recipes, in fact your zucchini fritters were insistently calling my name, but I thought that maybe those would be hard to enjoy at tailgating with the dipping sauce and all. So I stuck with cookies, easy to grab and run away to the stadium not to miss the kick-off. As usual, everyone can check the collection of tailgating recipes by poking the cute blue frog at the end of the post.

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FOUR YEARS AGO: Feijoada, the Ultimate Brazilian Feast

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SIX YEARS AGO: Italian Bread